Saturday, 9 June 2012

Moonrise Kingdom - Film Review

Spoiler: Moonrise Kingdom is quirky. And I mean, ridiculously quirky.

There are children dressed as birds; there's a scout troupe who spend their days making fireworks and racing motorbikes; there's a storm of biblical proportions which gives the story all the menace of a run to the corner shop in the rain.

Bruce Willis wears goofy NHS spectacles.

It's almost as if Wes Anderson wrote a list of kooky situations, and checked them off as he added them to the screen play:

What if a small boy was wounded with left-handed scissors? (check)
What if Edward Norton wore a scout uniform complete with knee socks and woggle? (check)
What if Tilda Swinton's character only referred to herself in the third person? (check)

But there is something instantly charming about Moonrise Kingdom which means that, despite the self-concious surrealism, you really do care about the narrative. From the outset you will find yourself enchanted by the sparse sixties setting and the plight, not just of the two teenage protagonists, but of all the characters in this idiosyncratic New England Community.

The relationship between Sam and Suzy, who resolve to run away from their respective domestic problems and live together as man and wife, is tender and completely believable. Their blossoming romance is expressed through furtive glances and inarticulate conversations that really capture what it is to be thirteen and in love; awash with feelings but without the maturity and vocabulary to express them.

The ensemble cast of big names compliment the narrative beautifully, and we see fantastic performances from Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton. Harvey Keitel makes a memorable appearance as the Scout Commander but my favourite character has to be Bob Balaban's narrator, a bobble-hatted and be-mittened beardy bloke who pops up at regular intervals and places the film in its historical context. Some might say that this is a slightly lazy way to tell the story, a 'tell' rather than 'show'. But the narration is never at odds with the plot and these strange asides which inform us of the air pressure or give us information on the Native American pathways that cross the island only add to the haphazard charm of the film. 

The cinematography is fantastic, littered with odd camera angles and sweeping shots that work in perfect synchrony with the tone of the film. The humour is tentative but there are enough laugh-out-loud moments to keep even the most po-faced cinema-goer amused. And though the motivations of the characters could be called into question by the more pedantic viewers, I found it easy to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the film for what it is: a delightfully strange ninety minute pleasure cruise, and one I'd be happy to ride again.

Quirky is not a dirty word.


  1. I also recently just saw this and completely agree with everything you've written here. But one thing kept niggling in my head as various other aspects were revealed: Wes Anderson has developed a very specific style and this was pretty much the 'most' Wes Anderson Wes Anderson film to date. More so even than the Royal Tenembaums, which is my fav. I kept wanting something to be different in the context of his previous work. But I guess that must be hard when you've become known for one super idiosyncratic way of doing something. Do you know what I mean? I feel like I could have worded that better!

    1. I know exactly what you mean. It must be very interesting to be known for on specific style. Do you continue to run to type, knowing that you have a ready made audience of fans or do you push against that and do something different, with the threat of derision and failure constantly hanging over any break from your own norms. There's something to be said for continuing with something that you're good at and that you enjoy, but I would have been more intrigued if this movie had made a move away from Anderson's whimsical style. Having said that, it was an incredibly enjoyable watch and I'd gladly see it again, so I suppose I answer my own criticisms there.